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Infection Prevention and Control procedures in low-resource contexts

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Infection prevention and Control (IPC) is directly linked with patient safety and high-quality healthcare, but in low-resource or conflict-affected settings there are difficulties and barriers that prevent establishing effective IPC measures. Efficient infection prevention and control (IPC) is crucial for stopping the spread of preventable healthcare-associated infections as well. Effective IPC programmes, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), can lower HAI rates by 30%. For the IPC week that takes place from October 16th till the 24th, Dea Abi-Hanna, IPC Mobile Implementation Officer, explains to us more about IPC and what limits low-resource countries from implementing effective IPC programmes.

  • What is the main role of an IPC specialist?

Infection prevention and control (IPC) focal points or specialists are trained professionals from diverse backgrounds, including nursing, midwifery, medicine, public health, pharmacy and allied health fields. IPCs work on the frontlines to prevent and manage infections in healthcare facilities and support community-based interventions, by promoting a culture of safety and impact the health of patients, staff and families.

  • What are some of the most important things you do to maintain a safe environment for patients and yourself?

Patient safety, which is the cornerstone of quality patient care, includes preventing errors and the harm they bring to patients. Providing safe patient care is a necessary component of providing high-quality healthcare. To protect both patients and medical staff, it is crucial to prevent infection and cross-infection. Infection-causing organisms, such as viruses and bacteria, are relatively simple to spread from one site to another and, eventually, from one person to another. It is crucial in daily life, but it is much more crucial in the healthcare setting where patients can have compromised immune systems or open wounds that leave them exposed to infection.

In our daily life, each individual can definitely avoid spreading and contracting diseases by taking precautions and by acting responsibly; such as maintaining good hand hygiene, following good food hygiene practices, getting vaccinated when required, only using antibiotics if your doctor decides that you need them, and by keeping an eye out for infections and their side effects.

  • What did we learn after the Covid-19 pandemic regarding IPC? And are those lessons carried out nowadays?

The world has changed significantly since 2020, and we have discovered considerable infection prevention and control (IPC) gaps, particularly among health care professionals who are more at risk and require more protection and training. Additionally, this pandemic demonstrated to us that individuals have short memories and that things that are not always around fade quickly. Therefore, I would say that we need to keep the Covid-19 pandemic experience in our minds and invest in infection prevention at the community level and in healthcare settings; Individuals should maintain a responsible behaviour and attitude to prepare for any possible risks by adhering to appropriate and credentialed recommendations to prevent infections and diseases.

  • Do you see a need for IPC awareness in the middle east? Among patients or healthcare workers?

The need for more education and awareness among patients, their families and healthcare workers should always be initiated regardless of the type of healthcare facility—a hospital or a clinic. Unfortunately, noncompliance with IPC procedures has a considerable negative impact on the environment of care, patient protection, and healthcare worker safety; and continuous efforts are being made to overcome this barrier both in the Middle East and across the world.

  • Where do you see the main problem in achieving full awareness? And how it can be achieved?

Any healthcare facility in the world can access guidance documents and recommendations, but the implementation will vary widely depending on the context. For instance, there are clearly difficulties in the development of successful IPC programmes in low-resource settings – healthcare facilities are frequently affected by poor IPC leadership, including inadequate financing for IPC activities and specialized, dedicated workers, a lack of IPC policies and procedures and insufficient resources due to budgetary constraints. Many hospitals still lack basic infrastructure, including measures and treatments for unclean water, sanitation, and hygiene, lack of IPC training for staff, poor compliance to IPC procedures like hand hygiene, environmental cleaning and disinfection, and reprocessing of reusable medical equipment, as well as inadequate infection surveillance systems. All these are critical barriers to effective IPC in low resource settings.

In conflict-affected settings, the access to healthcare, water, and sanitation, as well as the need for emergency surgical and medical care, are all significant local constraints and barriers that prevent effective IPC. These constraints and barriers also have a significant impact on the rise in healthcare-associated infections, particularly surgical site infections and antimicrobial resistance.

A plan, leadership toward one goal—patient and staff safety—as well as administrative commitment are all necessary for the establishment of effective infection prevention and control measures. Minimal resources may be employed to accomplish this. It is as possible to implement appropriate IPC procedures in low-resource contexts as it is in high-resource ones.

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IPC should become a daily common practice not only during this week, together we can all prevent, control infection and save lives.

MSF Intervention amid the war on Gaza